In any sport, Western Washington University has a few rivals. One of the more notables across the turf, hardwood and diamond is Central Washington University. On Thursday, Jan. 8, WWU’s women’s basketball team will get to face the Wildcats in Ellensburg and even though Central isn’t the most intense rivalry in women’s basketball for the Vikings (Simon Fraser University and Seattle Pacific University probably have dibs on that), it’s likely to be exciting even if the Vikings have won every meeting since 2010.
Here’s three keys to Thursday’s contest, which starts at 7 p.m. and can be watched on video stream by visiting wwuvikings.com and connecting to the video stream portal.
Hit the 3. The Vikings are one of the best in the nation at connecting from beyond the arc, shooting 41.5 percent from 3. The Wildcats hold teams to just around 30 percent from deep while connecting on about 33.2 percent of their own. CWU has actually taken more 3s, but made significantly less. If WWU can get Katie Colard open, the score could get out of hand as it did against Montana State Billings. In the last Vikings’ contest, WWU dropped 100 points.
Get to the line. This might be the biggest difference between the two 7-5 teams. The Vikings are brilliant from the line, shooting 80.4 percent while the Wildcats shoot just 68.1 percent. CWU does get to the line much more frequently but if Taylor Peacocke, a 92 percent free-throw shooter, and Colard, a perfect 22 for 22 on the season from the line, can drive and get fouled, the Vikings will find success.
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Kayla Bernsen vs. Courtney Johnson. Johnson is the Wildcats top scorer, averaging 15 points per game, while grabbing 6.6 rebounds per game. Likely Bernsen, who is averaging 12.8 points per game and 6.8 rebounds per game, will match up with Johnson. The two 6-footers form an interesting matchup and who comes out on top may decide this one.
Prediction: WWU 85, CWU 79. I think the it will be a high-scoring affair but between Peacocke, Colard and Bernsen, the Vikings have too many weapons for the Wildcats to keep up. The next meeting between the two comes in almost exactly a month in Bellingham on Feb. 7.